Prostration Before Infinity is a huge, predominantly drone work by Chris Sigdell, who is otherwise known as his recording alias, B°Tong. The general feeling that this album carries with it is one of a comforting isolation. However, Prostration Before Infinity is certainly not limited to the definitive boundaries of the aforementioned genre. On the contrary, the extensive variety of details really expand what one may consider to be an otherwise ordinary dronescape. Indeed, the album ended up turning towards a very gradual and structured exploration of solitude. The sea surface portrayed on the artwork may indeed indicate that the music has been designed to come in waves, while at the same time moving yet retaining its stationary essence. What I find more relevant to the music in regards to the artwork is its very grey scale.
Prostration Before Infinity is cold, monochrome, and immersed in vastness; it is layered and evolves at different paces. In this environment, you’ll find a range of elements lurking, each picked and used craftily. They keep you anxious, and despite the information for the release mentioning that the record reaches a ‘noise orgy’ state, I find these compositions to be very structured—logically, or at least intuitively existing. There are microsounds and glitches that are stereo-swapped around your ears, and very punchy ‘drops’ that pulsate like sci-fi sonic bombs. None of this sounds unnatural, even though the sound sources for Sigdell’s experiments are varying in nature. The album is carefully and organically mixed, transformed into something of an audio ecosystem, living on its own, following its own rules of nature.
The one and only piece that I’d call more chaotic is actually the bonus track. Its eclecticism and slightly different sound, however, makes this a nice addition as well, even if it moves away from the overall atmosphere established by the rest of the album.
On Prostration Before Infinity, B°Tong utilizes a variety of samples from different forms of media and film transmissions. There’s a lot of speech/voice resampling, most of which has been captured from either Sigdell’s own voice or from various other sources. I often find myself thinking that drone ambient music could benefit from more vocal usage: not in the most banal way of, let’s say, scientific reports or general big words about the universe (in the sense of a vocal sound that is effect with delay), but as textures that have been re-pitched and shaped as pads, ambiances, or heavy deformations. A fine example of this is a piece like ‘Interspersed’, which for me reaches a peak because of the very detailed voice deconstruction and the following massive build up.
All of the elements that form Prostration Before Infinity are a lesson not only in intelligent experimental musicianship, but in smart sound design as well. The album really succeeds in telling a story—and a complex one at that—which leaves a lot of room for personal interpretation, and I think that’s part of what experimental music should be about. I’m really looking forward to the moment when people will begin to write films based on similar works, but maybe it won’t be that easy of a task, because the images on this album—even if they were structured only with sound—are far too vivid to be recreated one-sidedly. For now, I’ll stick to watching this film with my eyes closed.
A1) Bow Shock
A2) NGC 7304
A3) Cyclotron Mission
B2) A Sudden Burst of Negativity
B3) Distant Fragment
B4) Magnetic Static Field (Bonus Track)